Thursday, 12 September 2013

The REAL cost of watching football in the Championship...

After today's headline grabbing BBC Sport 'Price of Football' survey ( about £1000 season tickets at my club, Ipswich Town, and £10 matchday tickets at Huddersfield I decided to try and dig a little deeper.

The tickets compared by this survey, as always, are totally incomparable and therefore any analysis is totally flawed by definition.

I decided to visit each clubs website and check on their match day ticket price for the 2013/14 season, and publish the results here. Note, none of this includes Derby County, who use a dynamic ticket pricing system which is unable to be analysed easily!

What type of ticket was chosen?
The ticket chosen was for an adult ticket in what is generally the cheapest part of the ground - the lower tier behind the goal.

Also, it is a ticket that is purchased before the day of the game, and any booking fees are excluded.

What did I do about categorisation of games?
In case you are unaware, 12 clubs categorise games depending on the opposition, some clubs have A and B games, some clubs have A, B and C and 1 club (Huddersfield) have A*, A, B, C and D!

Unfortunately not many clubs confirm how many games will be in each category at the beginning of the season so I've had to use a mid point across all clubs.

For clubs with 3 or 5 categories, I chose the mid-ticket price.
For clubs with 2 categories, I chose the midvalue of the 2 tickets
For clubs without categories, I obviously used that value!

The results:

As you can see, Brighton have the most expensive match day ticket in the Championship, and there are 7 teams that come in above the £25 mark - the average ticket price is £24.63

14 teams set their price between £24 and £26, and this would seem a 'fair price' for Championship football in my eyes. The 5 teams that come in under this mark are the 3 newly promoted sides, the smallest other club in the Championship (Barnsley) and Wigan who have always struggled to fill their stadium in their Premiership days and are in receipt of parachute payments.

The 5 teams with the most expensive tickets, operate 3 categories and therefore have tickets for some games that are even more expensive. Ipswich and Leeds are the worst offenders where their ticket prices are increased by £4.50 and £5 respectively. In fairness to Leicester their Category C tickets are a bargain at only £15.

Overall, the prices above generally seem fair and for me the problem comes when clubs wish to categorise games. This punishes away fans of the divisions 'bigger' clubs, a team like Leeds who are seen as a big draw will always be the highest category for each game they play, hitting their loyal away fans in the pocket on a fortnightly basis.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Would Reece Brown be a useful addition to the ITFC squad?

On the face of it, what is there to disagree with about signing Reece Brown – young, schooled at Manchester United, capped for England at youth level….. even representing his country at the U20 World Cup 2 years ago.

However, just last season Brown had his loan spell at Coventry City cut short as he wasn’t getting enough games with the League 1 side. He subsequently joined Ipswich on loan, in what was effectively an extended trial, making one substitute appearance for the first team away at Nottingham Forest.

I spoke to a friend who has seen Brown numerous times for Manchester United youth ranks at the time of his initial loan, and his opinion of him was this:

League One’s probably his level at the moment (and that’s maybe being generous) – seemed to start alright at Coventry before falling out of favour, similar story at Oldham I think. He’s got some decent raw attributes and should have a pro career somewhere but he’ll be doing pretty well to feature much for you guys and/or earn a permanent move I suspect.

I saw Brown for the U21s on at least 3 occasions and he never seemed to hugely impress, he’s big and quick – but always seemed to have a mistake in him. I’d like to put that down to him trying too hard to impress, and he was shifted around in positions frequently.

I think there is a decent player in there, and with his age, and the fact he can cover Right Back, Centre Back and a holding Midfield role he would be a very useful addition to the squad.

Other than Tommy Smith and Luke Chambers, we do not have any other Centre Back’s at the club. The U18 centre backs last year were George Fowler, who is still a schoolboy next season, and Omar Sowunmi, who is a very raw first year scholar who’s development will not be helped by playing above a level he is comfortable with. Matthew Clarke played there a few times and looks a good long term bet to eventually end up there.

Brown is capable of being a very versatile substitute for the first team, who will get regular football for the U21s and be in a position to push on if the opportunity arises. He is physically gifted, and being in a more settled environment rather than constantly being on loan should allow him to settle down and develop more naturally.

It will be very difficult to sign an experienced centre back to sit behind Smith and Chambers in the pecking order and Brown is exactly the sort of player we should be after, his wages will be relatively low and it is a low-risk piece of recruitment.

I hope to see Reece Brown in an ITFC shirt again next season.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Debunking the FFP myth being peddled by Evans & Clegg

It is really frustrating to see FFP being used as an excuse every time we elect to not spend money and as to why our cloth is being cut so quickly, where divisional rivals are not electing to do this.

Now, I totally understand why ME is no longer willing to fund ITFC at the levels he previously has, but if you look at the actual guidelines which make up FFP, it's clear that the reason is because he doesn't want to - not that the isn't allowed to.

Again that's his prerogative, so I'm not judging and saying it is not the correct approach to be taking. Only that I think it is a little disingenuous, if being generous, or just outright lying to the fans, if being harsh, to blame it all on FFP.

What is FFP?

Financial Fair Play is a way to try and ensure that football clubs don't run at huge losses while chasing the Premiership dream, and get themselves into financial positions they can't cope with long term. Leagues 1 and 2 have approached this differently with a maximum salary cap which is a percentage of turnover - this is managed proactively by the Football League who can reject new registrations if they think it will mean that they will go above their set limits.

The Championship have elected to follow the lead of UEFA and not link it to salary but to revenue.
The basics of it, are that with exceptions, a club isn't able to run at a loss. This seems fairly sensible, and it isn't until you look at the details of it that you realise there are big loopholes that competing clubs will take advantage of.

What are the exceptions?

  • Investment in Youth Development (Through the Elite Player Performance Plan) - this means that when Clegg would talk about Category 1 and Category 2 being a financial decision linked in with FFP, he was talking rubbish. These costs do not fall into the Financial Fair Play calculation.
  • Stadium costs, more accurately the sale and depreciation of fixed assets.
  • Community schemes and spending - ITFC are generally good at this and invest in the community, again these costs do not go towards the calculation.
  • Promotion Related Bonus Schemes.
  • Costs around career ending injuries.
  • A major sponsor defaulting.
  • Bad debts from other clubs.
So the top 3 exceptions to this are so that the infrastructure of the club can remain in place and be strong, and that all the money isn't just directed at the first team. Worryingly Clegg spoke about stripping back costs in his interview with Ipswich Player to spend the money on the first team

Acceptable deviations and Shareholder Equity
An acceptable deviation is another word for a pre-defined limit on loss. It means that if a club makes a loss within this there are no sanctions.

Shareholder equity is money that is pumped into the club, generally by an owner. This is money that is just passed over as basically a gift to help with the running costs with no recourse for being paid back - similar to what Abramovich has done at Chelsea….by writing of money he was 'owed'. I'm unsure how Evans' loan to the club is affected by this, but I'd guess he'd have to write off the money for it to count as shareholder equity.

What this means is that we can make a loss each year to a defined limit, and Evans can put money into the club on top of this with no penalty or stepping outside the FFP regulations. The acceptable deviations and shareholder equities are stated below:
2012-132013-142014-152015-16 onwards
Acceptable deviation£4m£3m£3m£2m
Shareholder equity£6m£5m£3m£3m
Total allowances£10m£8m£6m£5m

So this season we can make effectively a £10m loss with Evans writing of £6m of this loss as a gift to the club.

What are the sanctions for falling outside of the limits?
Firstly, there are no sanctions for overspending this season. We could spend £100 million on wages and run up a bigger debt and it does not matter at all. The first season that can be sanctioned is 2013-14, and this will be when the accounts are filed on or before 1st December 2014, over 2 years away.
The sanctions after this are split into 3 categories, and remember the sanctions are only applicable if losses are greater than the Total Allowances mentioned above:

If you have been relegated to League 1…
No real sanctions, you just have to begin to comply with the League 1 FFP rules which means salary must be a percentage of turnover. This will however inevitably lead to a transfer ban as your salary will be too high and registrations will be rejected. You will also receive no share of the 'Fair Play Tax' - see below.

If still in the Championship…
A transfer ban will be placed on the club from the following transfer window, will always be January as accounts filed in December, and will only be removed once proof can be made to the Football League that you now comply with FFP. You will also receive no share of the 'Fair Play Tax' - see below.

If promoted to the Premier League…If you are promoted to the Premier League you are then liable to pay a 'Fair Play Tax', which is divided equally among all teams that have complied with FFP in the Championship the previous season.

The Fair Play Tax is a ratcheted tax with set tiers that is a penalty, the tiers are stated below….and I've also added some columns which show the effect of over spending (i.e. being over the total allowances) by £1m, £3m, £5m, £10m and £20m:

Over spendingTaxFine at £1mFine at £3mFine at £5mFine at £10mFine at £20m
Total Fine£281k£1.481m£2.681m£6.681m£16.681m

So while at the top end this could be seen as quite draconian, when you actually look at the Premiership TV deals, even overspending by £10m, on top of the £10m allowances this season (e.g. run at £20m loss - excluding academy spending, etc.) would generate a fine of less than £7m - only payable if we were to be promoted.

Some financial stats re ITFC
In the years where accounts have been published for (2009-10 and 2010-11) the ITFC wage bill is £17m and £17.6m. If Jewells claims are to be believed and our wage bill has been cut to £6m then it means that £11m has been cut.
For 2010-11 the 3 lowest wage bills in the Championship were Scunthorpe (£5.5m), Doncaster (£7.6m) and Barnsley (£8.3m). If we are running at a wage bill this low I think it says all we need to know about ME's ambitions for the club….but I'd guess PJ has been economical with the truth.

While Clegg blames everything on FFP, looking at the legislation behind what actually makes up FFP, it is clear that there is huge room for manoeuvre if the owner wishes to back ITFC financially. As an example we could have a Category 1 academy, make huge losses every year and not be in breach of FFP. And if we really wanted to go for it we could make even bigger losses and chase promotion knowing that all that'll happen if we make it is a fine which pales into insignificance against the rewards on offer.

What is clear to me is that ME no longer wishes to invest as heavily as he had and he is using FFP as an excuse to the fans. I have no problems with the first part of that, but the second part really grates on me. Fans already seem brainwashed as to what FFP is, and you only have to look on Twitter or the TWTD message board for people to throw FFP as a reason for not competing financially.

Hopefully this will begin to explain what it is and people can begin to see through the party line currently being towed by Clegg and undoubtedly set by Evans. Evans is free to do what he wants with his money, and we cannot be angry at him for no longer funding Ipswich to previous levels - however when a message is being passed to the fans which can easily be disproved by documents in the public sphere we really need to worry about the owner of
the club.

All we want is clarity and the truth…..Clegg's interview on Ipswich Player contained neither. He stated the plan was to get promoted as soon as possible, while slashing the wage bill. He also stated that Evans will 'invest to ensure success' but framed it around FFP, the way he has invested in previous years is not hugely effected by FFP and this is just an example of the wool being pulled over our eyes as fans.

My conclusion is that Evans no longer wants to pump money into ITFC and is using FFP as a convenient excuse.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Does the signing of Daryl Murphy fit into the long term plan at ITFC?

Throughout the summer there have been various soundbites coming out of the club, most of what I've heard has encouraged me with regards to signing players who want to be here in the long term - looking for players who will commit for 3 or 4 years and who will look to buy a house down here and settle with their family. I have also been happy with the signings we've made for this long term approach as all seem to fit this goal, however I am still disappointed with the fact we let go the some of the top end Academy players last year which means we can't compete effectively in the U21 league. Obviously a lot of this has to be taken with a pinch of salt as Jewell does seem to say one thing and do the other fairly frequently but hopefully he has learned from last years debacle.

After Saturday's defeat at Blackpool, it would not be too great a leap to think that alarm bells will be ringing in Paul Jewell's mind regarding adding some experience to the squad - this in my mind would be a total knee-jerk reaction and the reason why we were left with a team at the back end of last year that included a spine of players that aren't here any more (McCarthy, Sonko, Leadbitter, Bowyer, Murphy). It is unsustainable to replace half your first team every season and we will never be able to compete with the rich clubs in this division - those who are in receipt of parachute payments.

ITFC fans (and Paul Jewell) need to realise we actually have a very decent points tally from a tough first three games - all 3 sides we have played this year (Blackburn, Watford and Blackpool) have 100% records in their other 2 games this year - and we have achieved this while playing some good football with a young,developing squad. It is important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater following a big defeat and allow the players to come back from this defeat.

The clubs in the Championship in receipt of a full parachute payment (currently Birmingham, Blackburn, Blackpool, Bolton and Wolves) receive £16m this season. Putting it another way that is basically the equivalent to our total revenue as spare money, or a squad of 16 players all earning £20k a week. I'd be surprised if we have any players earning £20k a week so it is unrealistic to try and compete with these by going head to head with signings and loanees….this is why a squad needs to be developed.

Can Daryl Murphy be part of this? I'd argue 'Yes'. I'm sure I read somewhere that Murphy's family are settled in Suffolk and his children are at school here, this strikes me as someone who is willing to be here for the future. If we are to sign him on a season long loan, with his contract up at the end of the year, we must have an agreement in place to sign him permanently in the summer - so he really commits to the long term plan being put in place.

However, it is dangerous to look at deals in pure isolation. In isolation the deals for Luongo, Murphy and N'Daw do seem to fit in with the long term plan and this point can be argued - but at the end of the season if we are playing dead rubbers with a central midfield pairing that won't be here next year then we will be back at Square 1 come this time next year - merely treading water in the division with no real hope of progress.

I will welcome Murphy to the club, he's done well for us previously and clearly fits in the dressing room - but I will be worried if we add any more loanees to the squad as having more than 3 members of your starting XI as loanees who won't be here the following season is not a good way to build a long term future.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

What I would do if I was Chief Executive of Ipswich Town to try and protect the future of the club?

This blog is an attempt to write from a neutral view-point. Personally I don’t think Paul Jewell is the man to lead Ipswich forward – but this isn’t a ‘Jewell out’ moan or anything of the sort.
I am attempting to write with regards to what I know about how football clubs are run, because I have a fear that the way ours is being run is not the greatest model currently – as too much power is given to the manager. At any point the manager is only 6 defeats away from the sack and over the last 3 years we have seen that when this model is the approach taken, the new manager comes in and changes everything.
We need to ensure that there is consistency in the squad, and there is some overall direction given from board level, so the First Team Manager comes in merely as a custodian and not as dictator.
I think, now that we have committed to a Category 2 academy, it is vitally important that we fully embrace all parts of it. This means a fully functioning Under 21 team should be at the club, with their own manager. Obviously it makes no sense to bring players in to be in the U21 squad currently but I think the decisions made on the academy players need to be completely taken away from the First Team Manager.
The academy players, which the new rulings dictate are those “who are U21 and in the reasonable opinion of the Club would not benefit from participating or continuing to participate in its Academy’s Coaching and Games Programme”, would be looked after by a dedicated youth team coach.
Coaching youth players is very different to coaching adult players and during an academy stint, something as silly as an August birthday as opposed to September may mean that they end up being released as have not physically and mentally developed as much as their peers.
And, there is a huge caveat to this, but Paul Jewell has been relatively successful in the transfer market. The caveat is that I am discounting the over 30’s he has signed (which is a huge leap for me as a PJ critic) and focusing on the young hungry players the club need to sign. Aaron Cresswell, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Andy Drury have all proven to be astute signings, and have no doubt increased their value in their time at the club. The same can be said for players who were previously bit part players with the likes of Tommy Smith and Lee Martin all having been improved under Paul Jewell.
Again excluding the Over 30’s in this, my biggest disappointment with Jewell has been his inability to ingratiate academy players into the first team squad. Josh Carson has gone backwards this year, Luke Hyam was dropped after a good spell and Joe Whight hasn’t had a look in. While Jewell is the one who see’s these players more often than I do, it is still disappointing that they haven’t been eased into first team football.
There is also a disappointment with players that have been released and from Phil’s recent news story, have been offered terms that are derisory at £250pw. The most glaring error at the moment seems to be Tom Eastman, who was picked up by 2 ex-ITFC academy coaches (and top flight centre backs!) at Colchester, subsequently loaned out to League 2 and now has been an integral part of their season in League 1.
I think a number of these problems could be avoided if the U21 coach had the final say in offering players coming out of the academy contracts. The First Team Manager would always be able to veto a player leaving who he rates, but currently it seems as though it’s the other way round. From watching a number of U18 games you often here comments from those in the know of ‘if Jewell doesn’t fancy them they don’t have a hope’, ‘the academy is disconnected from the club’ etc……….And in a way, who can really blame Jewell? He is given a budget to work with and if it is a case of paying 4 academy graduates £750pw or getting in a first team player who could impact the team £3k a week – in an industry as short sighted as football it isn’t difficult to understand his thought process! This is where the Chief Executive needs to look at the long term plan.
But this is where the separate budgets need to come in, the academy budget for U21s needs to be managed as a separate squad and the budget totally separate. They are in the best position to develop the players – they know when it is right to sort out a loan move, they will be able to build links with local clubs for their U21s – whether this be with teams in the Ryman league like Leiston up to teams in Conference like Braintree. The academy can be funded outside Financial Fair Play budgeting and it is so important for the future of the club that we allow the players to fully develop, and the academy staff are making decisions on players – rather than the current model where it seems that if players aren’t deemed good enough for first team squad at 18, they are released – again this must be related to Jewell’s budget and short termism of football in general.
This will allow for a finishing school to be at the club, between the academy and first team, this is important for a number of reasons.
  • Players in certain positions aren’t generally ready for first team at a young age (Goalkeeper, centre back and central midfield spring to mind) so they need to be developed further, and with more care from youth coaches.
  • Not all people develop mentally and physically at the same speed so it is important that the more immature members are given the opportunity to shine
  • Paul Jewell, for all his criticism, has shown that he can develop players from around age 20-21 when they have already developed from boy into man. The likes of Cresswell, JET, Smith and Martin are good examples of this
  • The 4 players mentioned above have been signed for a total of around £2.5m and once Smith has signed his contract I’d guess this can nearly be doubled AC - £1m, JET - £1.5m, TS - £750k, LM - £1.5m. In the new world of Financial Fair Play, it is vitally important that the norm becomes to develop players and increase value if you wish to progress. If we can give Jewell better players at 20, more hardened, more developed, more ready for 1st team football – then his track record has shown that he can begin to get the best out of them.
I think if we were to adapt this structure at the football club, then there would be a genuine long term plan. As I alluded to earlier, if we lose our first 6 games of next season then it is highly likely Jewell will be sacked. This would be disastrous as a new manager will come in, want his own men, and it will be hugely costly and unsustainable with FFP. FFP dictates that this approach to managers can’t happen, and with the man in charge so easily expendable, it is vital that the Chief Exec takes responsibility for the shaping of the overall squad, from first team to development to academy. This may mean the first team budget is cut slightly, but in every business budgets can be cut annually so Jewell will have to work with what he is given to protect the long term interests of the club.
I really think that a number of peoples main criticisms with regards to Jewell will be solved by this structure, as he has shown he can attract players and get them through the door, and shown that he can improve players. I hope he has learnt from his ‘old heads’ approach last year and we can build a competitive squad, while also improving players to sell at the right time to finance a promotion push. Names may be wrong here but we sold Dyer and used money to bring in McGreal, Jermaine Wright and Stewart to push us to promotion.
This can be done again if there is joined up thinking between the academy, the under 21 development squad and the first team.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Have ITFC ever had a squad as weak as what we have at the moment?

With the end of another disappointing season approaching, one which sees us with a lower points tally than last seasons disaster, and news that all of our academy graduates have either turned down their pro contract or been released, it got me wondering if we have ever had a weaker squad of professionals than we do at the moment.

For the purposes of this I have assumed that Leadbitter turns down his contract (which looks likely) and that both Richard Wright and Cormac Burke are not offered contracts (which again looks likely).

This leaves us with the below:

Goalkeeper - (First choice - non-existent, Squad depth - weak)
We will only have one GK on our books and this is Arran Lee-Barrett, who it is clear to any regular watchers of ITFC is not good enough to be a number 1 in the Championship. I think he is a very loyal and dependable number 2, but if he had to cover a period any greater than 2 weeks I'd be very concerned. We desperately need to sign a new number 1 goalkeeper, and with the release of Cropper and O'Donnell from the Academy we now need to sign a number 3 also.

Full Backs - (FC - decent, SD - weak)
We have 2 recognised senior full backs in Carlos Edwards and Aaron Cresswell, both of these have had relatively good seasons but there is room for improvement. In reserve we have Jack Ainsley, Joe Whight and Jamie Peters. It is clear Jewell doesn't rate Peters so I will discard him from this and Ainsley and Whight have yet to be trusted with any real game time so there is a severe lack of depth in this area. We need to sign a senior player who can cover both full back positions - someone like David Wright who has never been adequately replaced. This would allow for pressure to be put on the Edwards and Cresswell and cover to be given as and when required.

Centre backs - (FC - weak, SD - non existent)
Our only 2 centre backs are Tommy Smith and Damien Delaney, and while they have performed adequately over the past 3 months I would be hugely concerned if they were our starting centre halves on the opening day of next season. They to me are both the left sided centre back and need a partner. I think Delaney is the more impressive of the 2 and he should have the nod ahead of Smith for the left sided berth but not too fussed either way. What this does mean though is that a right sided centre back is an absolute necessity and also a back up.

Central midfield - (FC - weak, SD - ok)
We have 4 central midfield players with professional contracts; Andy Drury, Luke Hyam, Jimmy Bullard and Ryan Stevenson. Drury has been impressive this year but all 3 of the others have a lot to show that they are capable of a full season in the Championship. Luke Hyam has his limitations, but in my view could be a key player for us - we seem to have much better results when he is in the team and it can't just be co-incidence. Jimmy Bullard has been an almighty waste of space this season and needs to prove the doubters wrong next year by knuckling down and concentrating on his football. Ryan Stevenson looks fairly poor so far, but I have faith that with a good pre-season behind him he will be a decent squad player.

Wingers - (FC - Strong, SD - weak)
In Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Lee Martin, we have 2 of the best wingers in the division (when on form!). With a full pre season behind both of them you'd hope they'd come into the season flying and be one of the very few reasons to give ITFC fans any hope of competing for the play offs. In reserve we also have Josh Carson, who hasn't made as big an impact this season as would have been hoped, but hopefully will get more opportunities to impress next year. Other than that though there is no-one who can step in which is worrying.

Strikers - (FC - decent, SD - weak)
Our first choice front pairing of Michael Chopra and Jason Scotland should be better than it is, however they don't seem to be able to play together and rarely find the net when starting together. This is one of the reasons why we tend to play one up front quite often. I think Chopra would benefit from having a big man to play alongside when starting in a pair, and Scotland is a true lone striker as good at bringing people into the game. In reserve we have Nathan Ellington who hasn't done anything this season, and Ronan Murray who has had a seemingly productive loan spell at Swindon this year - neither of these seem in a position to put much pressure on the first choice front 2.

If we were to line up a first and second XI in a 442 formation I would imagine they would look like this:


So looking at our first XI, we need a new GK and CB, and probably another central midfielder….but more worryingly there are only 3 players in the 2nd XI who have proven they can cut it in the Championship in the last 2 years (Smith, Carson and Bullard), one of whom has had serious questions raised about their character in the last year.

My main concern is that outside these players, there is a gaping chasm to the academy, there are not any players I haven't mentioned who are between the academy and the 2nd XI and this seems extremely short sighted. While the likes of Bennett, Cropper, Maduako, Lavery and Eastman may not have been ready for the Championship at the moment, with financial fair play coming in there is a big worry that we haven't invested a relatively small outlay in them for a year or two to see if they can be improved with coaching or sent on loan to the lower leagues to improve them. To bring players in from other academies or the lower leagues will invariably involve a transfer fee and higher wages and if we are looking at a long term plan it is vital that we give our youth the best possible chance of getting through - it feels as though they have been discarded too early, or offered derisory terms or contract lengths that have forced them into taking a pragmatic decision for their careers and we have pushed decent players out the door.

The start of this U21 reserve league that was mentioned on TWTD yesterday makes it even more concerning that we lack such depth in the squad as we may not be able to get full benefit from this. There may be more to it, that the 1st year scholars going into 2nd year are seen as a great year or something we aren't aware off, but I can't help but think that we are releasing players who deserve to be given time to see if they can improve and the relative cost of it will be miniscule in the grand scheme of things for the football club.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

To rotate or not to rotate?

Over the past few months, Paul Jewell has proven himself to be a manager that doesn't like to change the team to keep it fresh over the course of a season. He prefers to play a settled line up week in-week out - and while this is a sentiment that many fans seem to agree with - I think this is the wrong way to manage a squad over a long and arduous season. Gone are the days of 'pick your best XI', 'you can't change a winning team' etc. when you see that footballers now cover twice the distance they did in the 80's and early 90's and at a much higher intensity.

The 2011/12 season at Ipswich Town has been one of runs of form - 3 defeats on the spin, one loss in 8, 7 defeats on the bounce, back to back wins, 2 points out of 18 and more recently 24 points in our last 12. This shows a huge lack of consistency and also in my mind that we are a confidence team….capable of Championship winning form over a sustained period, but also of relegation form with the same set of players.

I personally think one of the main reasons for the change of fortune in our runs can be something as simple as the fact that the players are tired. In the Premiership the top teams rotate heavily to help them through a 38 game season, but yet this habit does not seem to have found it's way down to the Championship where 46 games are played in the same time period with the same international breaks.

To veer away from Ipswich for a bit, Spurs have had their title challenge effectively ended in recent weeks, the media can't seem to fathom why, but over the Christmas period I was speaking to a colleague who predicted this, in the 4 game period over Christmas, Redknapp did not change the team - and the players looked shattered. Now in order for them to play their high intensity game they are not fit enough to do it - once a player is gone, it takes almost a 2 week window for them to regain full fitness - if they are managed properly over busy periods this can be avoided.

I think Ipswich are a similar team to Tottenham, when we have been at our best in both good runs in the season, it has been when playing the game at a high intensity and tempo and overpowering opposition. Last nights game clearly showed this, in the first half with a slow tempo we were poor. We don't have the patience and technique to keep the ball for long periods of time, Middlesborough were happy to knock it around and wait for an opportunity to present itself. We are the opposite and play a very 'English' game - get the ball forward quickly, run with pace at defenders and try and pcik up second balls in dangerous areas and attack with intensity to make something happen or win a set piece.

This high intensity game has been very succesful, but isn't sustainable if we use the same players week in, week out. In the month of March we have now had 7 games in 24 days. Therefore, with the 4231 formation we are playing, there are 4 attacking spots available for each game and by definition 28 for the games in March - Murphy, Martin, Chopra and Emmanuel-Thomas have occupied 27 of these - with the only change being Jason Scotland in for Lee Martin at Hull.

In the last 3 games, at around the hour mark, Chopra, Martin and Emmanuel-Thomas have tired badly. This was particularly evident last night when at one point Nicky Bailey ran past Chopra like Rio Ferdinand gliding past Micky Quinn!

Lee Martin has arguably been our most important player in the recent good run, and it is hard to make a case for dropping him, but Jewell must realise that we are flogging our players and without sufficient recovery time between matches they will not recover - I'd be surprised if any of that front 4 fire on all cylinders between now and the end of the season.

In March, our two attacking midfield players not currently starting, Josh Carson and Ryan Stevenson, have played approximately 90 minutes football between them. Taking away from the fact it is good to see an Academy graduate like Carson play more, I struggle to see that the team would have been sufficiently weakened by given Carson and Stevenson 3 starts in this period to allow the key players to rest. It could have worked along that way that either Carson or Stevenson started - and one of the first choice 4 was given a rest to recover. Murphy clearly appreciated the total rest he was given for the Blackpool game as his best form of the season followed this.

Squad rotation is seen as a dirty word in football but with the intensity the game is played at these days it is vital that the team is kept fresh. A huge squad isn't required to do this, a defence shouldn't rotate as these players cover less ground and have less need to have explosive pace, and greater natural rest periods during the game. We have looked more defensively solid when relationships have been able to be built and rotating at the back four is a recipe for disaster.

Using last nights game as an example, a key player who looked the freshest at the 90 minute mark was Grant Leadbitter, he had an enforced rest on Saturday, but would he have been able to make the run to score his goal yesterday with 90 minutes on Saturday under his belt? We'll obviously never know, but he looked good for a rest, whereas Lee Bowyer looked leggy from around 30 minutes in having played 3 games in 6 days.

In order to rotate a squad, you need around 10 midfield and attacking players, with this it allows you to make 2 or 3 changes a game to ensure that everyone is kept fresh, and it doesn't end up like earlier in the season where both Chopra and Scotland were tired and Ellington and Emmanuel-Thomas came out of the lurch with no match sharpness and looked poor and were subsequently dropped - this isn't rotation, it is dropping/resting players. Jewell's use (or lack) of substitutions also doesn't help the matter, in the last 2 home games both Emmanuel-Thomas and Chopra have looked knackered for the last 15 minutes but been left on when there has been a spare sub to use and allow them a break to begin recovery for next game.

I think we have the 10 midfield and attacking players in: Bowyer, Drury, Leadbitter, Hyam, Murphy, Martin, Emmanuel-Thomas, Carson, Chopra and Stevenson (Scotland deliberately excluded due to contract restrictions). And with these players, if the squad is managed properly, all 10 will be able to stay match fit without being burned out by playing 8 games in a month.

Unfortunately for this season, I think the squad rotation ship has sailed, and unless key players can be given a 10-14 day rest they will not be able to hit the heights of their best performance. Hopefully Paul Jewell spends time talking to Sir Alex Ferguson this summer, who is the master of rotation - he has openly admitted that he knows the XI he will be playing 4-5 games in advance in order to ensure everyone is fit to play and peaking. They do have a bigger squad than us, but it could be argued that he is top of the league with a relatively poor squad when compared to their rivals. If Jewell can embrace rotation and do it effectively, I think it will give us a huge advantage next season.